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Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 7
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 3241–3251, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Atmos. Chem. Phys., 12, 3241–3251, 2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 03 Apr 2012

Research article | 03 Apr 2012

Atmospheric mercury observations from Antarctica: seasonal variation and source and sink region calculations

K. A. Pfaffhuber1, T. Berg1,*, D. Hirdman1,**, and A. Stohl1 K. A. Pfaffhuber et al.
  • 1Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU), Kjeller, Norway
  • *current address: Department of Chemistry, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Norway
  • **current address: Centre for Environmental and Climate Research (CEC), Lund University, Lund, Sweden

Abstract. Long term atmospheric mercury measurements in the Southern Hemisphere are scarce and in Antarctica completely absent. Recent studies have shown that the Antarctic continent plays an important role in the global mercury cycle. Therefore, long term measurements of gaseous elemental mercury (GEM) were initiated at the Norwegian Antarctic Research Station, Troll (TRS) in order to improve our understanding of atmospheric transport, transformation and removal processes of GEM. GEM measurements started in February 2007 and are still ongoing, and this paper presents results from the first four years. The mean annual GEM concentration of 0.93 ± 0.19 ng m−3 is in good agreement with other recent southern-hemispheric measurements. Measurements of GEM were combined with the output of the Lagrangian particle dispersion model FLEXPART, for a statistical analysis of GEM source and sink regions. It was found that the ocean is a source of GEM to TRS year round, especially in summer and fall. On time scales of up to 20 days, there is little direct transport of GEM to TRS from Southern Hemisphere continents, but sources there are important for determining the overall GEM load in the Southern Hemisphere and for the mean GEM concentration at TRS. Further, the sea ice and marginal ice zones are GEM sinks in spring as also seen in the Arctic, but the Antarctic oceanic sink seems weaker. Contrary to the Arctic, a strong summer time GEM sink was found, when air originates from the Antarctic plateau, which shows that the summertime removal mechanism of GEM is completely different and is caused by other chemical processes than the springtime atmospheric mercury depletion events. The results were corroborated by an analysis of ozone source and sink regions.

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